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Image of the Week: Medical detection dogs

28 Aug, 2015
Casper the poodle helps his owner keep track of her blood sugar levels

Casper the poodle helps his owner keep track of her blood sugar levels

At Trust HQ we’re used to welcoming researchers, grantholders, artists and all manner of interesting people into the building, but this week things were a bit different…

To mark National Dog Day in the UK, we had some furry friends join us, and they brought their owners along to tell us more about the way dogs can help with human health.

You’re probably familiar with the concept of guide dogs, who are specially trained to help blind and partially sighted people during everyday life, but what about medical detection dogs?

These dogs work with individuals who have a range of diseases including type 1 diabetes, Addison’s disease, and narcolepsy. Using their incredibly attuned noses, these dogs are able to ‘sniff out’ minute indicators of changes in the body that could signal the onset of a dangerous medical event. A dog’s sense of smell can be anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 times more sensitive than ours, with the part of their brain dedicated to processing smells also being proportionally much larger.

For diabetics whose blood sugar levels change rapidly for example, the dogs are able to detect changes in blood sugar and alert their owners if the level falls below, or rises above, the normal range. They are also able to fetch help or medical supplies if needed.

The dogs can also be placed with people with severe, life threatening allergies – a  trained dog can detect an approaching person who had been eating nuts as far back as two days ago!

The charity Medical Detection Dogs has placed around 60 dogs with people who are unable to sense the onset of an impending life-threatening medical emergency, and they’ve got even bigger ambitions for the future. They are looking at whether it is possible to use dogs to detect indicators of cancer in a person’s urine, which could speed up early diagnosis. On-going research suggests that when presented with samples of urine, dogs are able to accurately identify certain types of cancer through the odour.

“Our work will eventually help scientists create an ‘electronic nose’ that could screen urine samples” says Christina Bowden from Medical Detection, and though she says that dogs will never replace doctors, she does hope that in future clinicians may send urine samples to be screened by the dogs.

To find out more about Medical Detection Dogs please visit their website

Related: Read more about dogs detecting cancer in the Mosaic Extra ‘Sniffing out ovarian cancer

Image credit: Colin Walker

One Comment leave one →
  1. Luka permalink
    28 Aug, 2015 10:02 am

    Nice! ;)

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